Sunday, March 22, 2015

In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis

By Carolyn Johnson GLOBE STAFF MARCH 19, 2015

EVEN WHEN NO one’s done anything obviously wrong, scientific experiments sometimes yield results that turn out to be incorrect. When Doug Melton’s team at Harvard University discovered betatrophin, a hormone that could trigger the pancreas to make beta cells lost in diabetes, their 2013 paper was touted as a breakthrough. But when they redid the experiment and increased the number of animals, the original result didn’t quite hold up. The hormone’s effect was far weaker than first reported......Attempts to quantify how much research is wrong have been sobering. Scientists at Bayer Health Care reported that when they tried to reproduce 67 published discoveries in oncology, women’s health, and cardiovascular disease, only a quarter of the time were their in-house results completely consistent with what had been reported. A scientist at Amgen disclosed that, despite concerted effort, the company had successfully repeated only six of 53 major cancer findings. At the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, researchers found that clinical trials of drugs that failed could have been avoided, saving time and money, if earlier experiments on animals had been carefully repeated. Last year, neuroscience researchers tried to repeat five studies that showed 17 links between certain brain structures and behaviors — for example, a finding that people with more gray matter in particular brain regions also have more Facebook friends. The researchers could not replicate any of the connections and found evidence for what scientists call the “null hypothesis” — the idea that there was no relationship......To Read More.....

My Take - The author of this article, while attempting to show the width and depth of this problem, is being kind. Those who have been following this problem for years have come to realize that grant money has made the term scientific integrity an oxymoron. This problem runs much deeper and wider than is presented here, and one cause for it is the collusion by those who award federal grant money and the insane claims and demands by groups of the green movement. I will also include corruption in pharmacuetical companies in this mix. 
As for this business about limited funding – maybe the real problem isn’t there’s too little funding.   Perhaps the real problem is there are too many scientists and they will do anything to get that grant money because they take that old line "publish or perish" very seriously!  As one scientist said - "when science becomes rich it becomes politics". The holy grail of science is no longer truth. The holy grail of science is now the acquisition of grant money, and the universities are equally guilty! 
There is another aspect to this that isn't broached in the article. Science by media hype!  Rachel Carson made such a big name for herself with Silent Spring - bypassing any possible criticism through peer review - by initially published Silent Spring as installments in the New Yorker magazine. Once she captured the public’s imagination and attention she published it as a book, and that pattern has been part of the problem ever since. We need to get this - Rachel Carson wasn’t a scientist. She was a science writer, and that didn’t make her a scientist.  Carson did no research, she merely reported on the research of others.  Although it’s clear she was a good science writer before Silent Spring, after Silent Spring she became a science fiction writer, but certainly not a scientist, and neither are these snake oil salesmen and con artists with Ph.D.’s.

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